Senators Propose Delaying Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit by Two Years
Senate Republicans on Thursday announced plans to release a set of proposals for offsetting spending related to recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina, including a plan to delay by two years the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Cohn, CongressDaily , 9/23).
The action comes after the 110-member House Republican Study Committee on Wednesday released a 23-page list of proposed spending reductions to offset hurricane recovery costs that also includes a proposal to delay the launch of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit by one year. The delay is estimated to save about $30.8 billion (California Healthline, 9/22).
The Senate Republicans' package of proposals in some ways "goes further" than those of the RSC, CongressDaily reports. For example, the senators are expected to propose delaying the Medicare drug benefit by two years instead of one for estimated savings of $85 billion.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that cost estimates for the drug benefit have increased by $330 billion to $730 billion over 10 years since the legislation was approved in 2003. The proposal would exempt low-income beneficiaries from the delay, CongressDaily reports. The senators also are proposing allowing domestic discretionary spending to increase by only 3.4% each year instead of 8.4% for savings of $381 billion over five years, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 9/23).
Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten on Wednesday met with RSC leaders to discuss the group's proposals. According to CongressDaily, the meeting demonstrates "the Bush administration's concern with eroding support among conservatives because of the explosion in federal spending on [President Bush's] watch."
Bush said Thursday that he will come up with suggestions for offsetting the cost of recovery after officials have a better estimate of the total cost (Cohn/Koffler, CongressDaily, 9/22).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.